BP Hit List

BP Hit and Run
ESPN Insider Archive Archive

Facebook Page


It's almost spring
when a young man's thoughts turn to... those expensive
seat licenses. An online cash advance can help relieve the anxiety.

Attending baseball games can be expensive. You could get a cash advance onine to pay for tickets.


All contents of this web site © Jay Jaffe, 2001-2011 except where indicated. Please contact me for any questions or comments regarding this site.

      F I E L D  T R I P S

JUNE 13, 2003

JUNE 12, 2003: Houston Astros at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
A No-No and an Oh Yes

The Yanks became a part of baseball history in a most undignifed manner on the night before this game. Not only did they have a no-hitter pitched against them, they had a no-hitter pitched against them by a sextet of Houston Astros hurlers. While four pitchers had combined on a no-hitter before (twice, actually), no team had ever used so many in a no-no. The Astros' situation came about when starter Roy Oswalt pulled up lame with a groin injury two pitches into the second inning. Manager Jimy Williams deftly scotch-taped his way through the ballgame until he could get to his two relief aces, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner, to close the deal.

I saw the second half of the ballgame, but I have to admit I was mostly half-watching. I had dinner on Wednesday night with Greg Spira of Baseball Prospectus, and afterwards we went to a bar to watch the Yankee game and shoot the breeze. I took him to Manitoba's, an East Village bar owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba, the former lead singer of the '70s New York punk band the Dictators. Handsome Dick (real name Richard Blum) is a big Yanks fan and the bar's a decent place to watch a ballgame if you don't mind closed-captioning and a punk-heavy jukebox. So the Dead Boys classic "Sonic Reducer" blared while the 'Stros pitchers reduced the Yankee bats to splinters, the Yankee lineup underwent its own "Personality Crisis" in tandem with the New York Dolls chestnut, and Joe Torre looked like he wanna be sedated.

We joined the game right as Lance Berkman made his diving catch on Alfonso Soriano's blooper to end the fifth. At that point the score was 4-0, but that's all we knew. It wasn't until the end of the sixth that I saw a shot of the scoreboard and that trio of zeroes in the Yankee R H E columns. That piqued our interest. We started talked no-hitters. Greg's been to Jose Jiminez's in Arizona in 1999, along with an entire SABR convention. The closest I've come was Bartolo Colon taking one into the eighth against the Yanks on September 18, 2000. Greg asked if I had been rooting for Colon at that point, to which I replied that I would have if the no-no had survived until the ninth inning. That was in the midst of that infamous Yankee slide at the end of the 2000 season, and I wasn't in any mood for concessions then.

But it's not as though I'd never seen a no-no. I've watched two in full (Nolan Ryan's fifth, in 1981, against the Dodgers -- now there was a guy who could turn me against my own team -- and Jack Morris' 1984 gem agains the White Sox) and seen the last few innings of several (Kevin Gross and Bud Smith come to mind). I missed both David Wells' and David Cone's perfectos for various reasons, and came one agonizing strike away when Mike Mussina nearly pulled it off.

When the Astros' Brad Lidge got through the Yanks in the seventh, I smelled toast. They were about to face the best setup man in the game in Dotel, a fireballer who strikes out 1.5 batters per inning pitched, followed by Wagner, who... well, ditto. The two lived up to their billing. Thanks to a passed ball on a third strike that allowed Soriano to reach first, Dotel actually tied the major leauge record with four strikeouts in one inning. Wagner struck out the first two batters in the ninth, giving the Yanks an ignominious eight strikeouts in a row, tying an AL record. Hideki Matsui mercifully ended both that string and the game by doing what he apparently does best, grounding out.

I have to admit I wasn't even finicky this time. I figure to see the Yanks lose about 60 times this year, and this was already going to be one of them. The no-no would be a neat little catch, but it might also serve the larger purpose of showing the Yanks that they'd reached the nadir of their season. Joe Torre certainly treated it that way, reading the Yanks the riot act. According to the Times:

Manager Joe Torre kept the clubhouse closed for several minutes and held a meeting in which players said he called the game embarrassing. Torre, bothered by how the Yankees played, looked and acted, told them this sort of play would not be tolerated. "Whatever kind of history it was, it was terrible," Torre said. "It was one of the worst games I've ever been involved with."

Echoes of Tommy Lasorda I've-never-been-so-sick take on Reggie Jackson's 3-homer World Series game in 1977. Elsewhere, phrases like "embarassment," "totally inexcusable," and "rock bottom" were used by players and management. Not suprisingly, the Steinbrenner Watch is on Full Alert in all of the New York area papers today, with hitting coach Rick Down assumed to be the one wearing the tightest noose. It must be a great time to be a Yankee hater.

• • •

Against this backdrop, I headed to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, fairly certain that the sequel would have a different ending than the night before. After all, only once in baseball history have two no-hitters been thrown in the same park on back-to-back days. I was joined by Greg, the second ballgame we've taken in together this past week (we went to last Friday's Mets-Mariners ballgame at Shea, along with Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference and frequent Baseball Primer poster David Nieporent).

I arrived a bit late due to subway difficulties, and thus missed the Astros scoring two runs off of David Wells in the top of the first. Greg filled me in with a flawless play-by-play, rescuing my scorecard from oblivion. The Yanks got a run back in the bottom of the inning against Jeriome Robertson, a rookie lefty I'd never seen before. Soriano led off the first with a walk (something he does fewer times a year than hit a leadoff homer, I'll wager) and then Derek Jeter beat out a bunt to third, the newly-annointed captain getting the monkey off of the Yanks' back in short order. Sori ended up scoring on a sac fly by cleanup hitter (and Torre pet) Todd Zeile. Gulp.

Wells settled down, and the Yanks took a lead in the fourth. Raul Mondesi laced a ground-rule double down the leftfield line and over the wall, and Hideki Matsui followed with a sharp RBI single to right. A John Flaherty single took Godzilla to third, where he scored from on a sac fly by Juan Rivera.

The Astro hitters kept finding holes, racking up six hits through five innings. But some timely defense, especially by Zeile, kept the Yanks in front. Zeile made good plays on a couple of slow rollers and started an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP on Jeff Bagwell in the fifth. My presence seems to be bringing out the best in him.

But in the sixth, Wells ran out of whatever combination of luck and gas had carried him through the first five frames. Three straight singles loaded the bases with none out, and Brian (the speedy one, right?) Hunter followed with a sac fly (the fourth of the ballgame). Number nine hitter and defensive specialist Adam Everett nearly took Wells over the wall, then socked a ground-rule double that scored two, at which point nearly 40,000 Yankee fans sighed in unison, "Uh-oh, here we go again." During this May-June swoon, one stat that hasn't been overlooked is that the Yanks had yet to come from behind to win a ballgame in which they'd trailed after six innings.

The team seemed to be feeling that pressure in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Bubba Trammell singled, and Flaherty ripped a double into the left-center gap. With the Astro outfielders having displayed woefully off-line throws thus far, third base coach Willie Randolph was licking his chops as he waved Trammell around to score. This time the Astros made a perfect relay play, Berkman to 3B Morgan Ensberg to catcher Greg Zaun, and Bubba was lunch.

Jimy Williams chose the occasion to pull Robertson in favor of Kris Sarloos, one of the previous night's heroes. Juan Rivera worked a full count off of Sarloos and then picked up Flaherty on a single to left, and the Yanks cut the Astro lead to 5-4. They tied the game in the next inning after Berkman dove and missed a Jason Giambi bloop for a double, and Mondesi lined a two-out single to right. The clutch hitting animated the crowd considerably, and there was a palpable sense of we're-gonna-win-this-one relief in the air.

Antonio Osuna had come on in relief of Wells after six; the REAL Osuna, not the impersonator who bore a rather strong resemblance to Juan Acevedo on Tuesday night. Osuna shut down Houston in the seventh and eighth, allowing only one hit.

Facing Octavio Dotel, Hideki Matsui led off the Yankee eighth. In the hole 0-2, he hit a fast grounder right down the line to Bagwell, who got the ball just past the bag, but apparently not so well. E-3. Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra stroked a single as I badmouthed him, and then pinch-hitter Jorge Posada battled back from 0-2 to draw a walk, loading the bases with none out. Rivera popped out, but Soriano dunked one into rightfield, scoring a run. Dotel finally settled down and struck out Jeter and Giambi for a grim reminder of the previous evening's affairs.

But the Yanks had the lead going into the ninth, so "Enter Sandman." Mo Rivera rung up Craig Biggio to start the 9th, and ended up closing the door on the Astros, just like he's supposed to, giving the Yanks their first late-inning come-from-behind victory of the season.

Not to mention their third straight in my presence. If George won't spring for my limo, I figure the Yankee coaches might chip in.

Final Score: Yanks 6, Astros 5. One late arrival, one come-from-behind victory, no no-hitters, one complimentary copy of Total Baseball VII, courtesy of my guest Greg Spira. BOX SCORE